There have been many, many MTG cards printed over the years, but most of them are pretty bad, destined to sit in dusty drawers, untouched and unloved. Not these all-stars. Here, we’ve drawn up a list of the very best MTG cards of all time, overperformers from all Magic: The Gathering’s many formats. The mere mention of these cards will fill experienced players’ hearts with dread and their minds with flashbacks.
We’ve looked back across countless MTG sets, from recent releases all the way back to Alpha, to find the coolest, most jaw-droppingly powerful cards in all of Magic: The Gathering. Since you’re clearly interested in winning games, you might also be keen to know the best MTG creature types, and the best MTG commanders you can play.
- Sol Ring – the best Commander card
- Lurrus of the Dream-Den – the best MTG mechanic
- Pack Rat – the best Limited MTG card
- Oko, Thief of Crowns – the best MTG planeswalker
- Contract From Below – technically disqualified
- Tinker – the best MTG tutor card
- Deathrite Shaman – the best mana dork MTG card
- How we chose the best MTG cards
The best Commander card
Starting out with a freebie, Sol Ring is the best Commander card in existence, and the most commonly played card too (not counting basic lands). Providing two colorless mana and only costing one, an early Sol Ring is unparalleled mana acceleration that can completely warp the course of any EDH game.
A colorless artifact, Sol Ring is playable in every single Commander deck, and unless you’re deliberately trying to reduce the power of your deck, you should be using it too. If Sol Ring wasn’t reprinted in every Commander product ever, it would be super expensive; as is, you can pick one up for a couple of dollars.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
The best MTG mechanic
Our next entry is a creature which arguably got a whole mechanic nerfed – though there were certainly other problematic MTG companions that helped it out. It’s fair to say Wizards of the Coast dropped the ball with Companion, which lets you play with an eighth card in your hand, provided you meet restrictive deck building requirements.
It definitely underestimated Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which could bring back permanents costing two or less from the graveyard. But luckily the downside, only being able to run permanents with a mana cost of two or lower, would dissuade most decks from using Lurrus, right? It’s not like there’s an archetype that relies on low-cost, low-to-the-ground creatures to win games swiftly.
While this cute nightmare made a big splash in Standard, it was even more deadly in eternal formats, where a higher caliber of one and two drops could be found. Lurrus is one of the few cards to be banned in Vintage, the most high-powered MTG format (there was no point Restricting it, since you only need one copy of the card in your deck).
After Wizards made the Companion mechanic far weaker, Lurrus was unbanned in Vintage. But even needing three mana to bring it to your hand, Lurrus was still too good for Modern, Pioneer, and Legacy, and ate a belated ban.
The best Limited MTG card
Pack Rat is one of, if not the biggest Limited bomb ever printed. This unassuming rodent, printed in Return to Ravnica, basically required an immediate answer, or it would multiply out of control, each copy making the rat horde, and the rats themselves, grow bigger and bigger. It didn’t even matter what other cards were in your deck, if you could stick an early Pack Rat and use its ability, the game was yours.
Umezawa’s Jitte from Kamigawa also deserves a shoutout for making creature combat a nightmare. It also fit in any deck thanks to its colorless casting cost, but we chose Pack Rat for this slot because its apocalyptic approach to winning game’s was just so much more dramatic.
Oko Thief of Crowns
The best MTG planeswalker card
Oko, Thief of Crowns has indeed stolen Jace the Mindsculptor’s crown, which marked him out as the best MTG planeswalker. In true fey style, if you’d never met this trickster before, you would not see the threat until it was far too late.
Oko’s abilities are great, and highly versatile – being able to produce blockers and turn an opponent’s impactful permanents into useless elks is fab. The real power comes in, though, when the abilities are combined with Oko’s three-mana casting cost and loyalty values.
Oko immediately has six loyalty once you +2 him, and from there dealing with him becomes a nightmare. Your little creatures can’t get past his elks. Your big creatures? Well now they’re elks (and Oko gains loyalty while removing your cards!). And while you’re expending resources trying to remove the three mana planeswalker, your opponent can keep building up their own board, getting further and further ahead.
Contract From Below
It’s hard to argue that Contract From Below isn’t one of the best MTG cards ever printed. Just look at the value it provides. For just one black mana, you get a whole new hand of cards – that’s absurd! Put four copies in your deck and mulligan until you find one of them.
The trouble is, of course, that you can only run Contract From Below if you’re playing for ante, i.e. gambling with your cards. Since almost nobody plays with these old ante rules now, and they’re strictly forbidden from official tournaments, you’re unlikely to get any use out of this, frankly busted, card.
The best MTG tutor card
Tinker does one better than the best MTG tutors. It doesn’t just fetch a card to your hand, it plonks an artifact of your choice right onto the battlefield.
Unfortunately, since the card’s included in the MTG Commander banlist, you’re unlikely to experience the joy of trading a treasure for a Blightsteel Colossus, unless you’ve the budget to be a Vintage player.
The best mana dork MTG card
While Deathrite Shaman can’t end games by swinging for damage, it’s an incredible MTG mana ramp card. As long as you’re in a format where you can play Fetchlands to fuel your graveyard, it’s essentially an upgraded Llanowar Elves that can heal you and damage your opponents without having to go through their creatures.
How we chose the best MTG cards
There are dozens more MTG cards, from Griselbrand to Ragavan, that we could’ve considered for this list, and there’s no scientific way to determine if one Magic card is greater than another. All MTG cards depend on the context in which they’re played, the formats they’re available in, and the other cards that help to make them sing.
To make our selections of the best MTG cards ever, we’ve tried to find cards that are dominant in multiple formats, or that would be dominant if they hadn’t been banned. We’ve also tried to include cards you might actually run into or be able to purchase yourself, avoiding the most expensive MTG cards, stuff on the Reserved List that most players can’t possibly afford. Obviously, that means the MTG Power 9 is out right away, which is good; that would’ve made this quite a boring list.